The traditional summer job for a college student is to participate in an internship, which is basically working for a company and gaining industry experience. Before this semester, I thought internships were the limit to summer options for me. Thankfully, I was introduced to the REU program in Professional Development. REU stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates, and the programs provide an alternative to working in industry, while still using what has been learned in the ChemE program so far.
In essence, an REU entails going to another college for ten weeks over the summer and working in a lab. Professors at the schools initiate the programs in research fields of their choosing, and REU participants and graduate students work together on the assigned project. There are copious schools that participate in the REU program and they all offer differing fields of study. Many of the programs are centered around materials technology and nanotechnology, but greatly diverge from there. Nanotechnology is a very diverse field but basically focuses on altering the molecular properties of a substance causing it to perform a certain function. Nanotechnology applications can be found in electronic, medical, and biological fields. The options are nearly endless when considering programs to complete research in. I find all the programs intriguing and think I would enjoy working on any of them.
One of the best attributes of the REU is the living arrangement. Students participating in the program live on the campus they are working on and are able eat in the campus dining halls. This would provide a sense of continuity and comfort since I have lived at Lehigh for the last two years. I think it would be an awesome experience to live in a different city for the summer and meet new people. In addition to gaining valuable experience in performing research, I would also learn about a different area and live in a new place.
Right now, the only aspect of REU that I have completed is the applications. The applications were all fairly similar. They required the normal information like my name and email and address. They also required an unofficial transcript uploaded as a pdf and either one or two reference letters from professors. The last part of all the applications was an essay component. The prompts were all similar and I could use the same ideas for each essay, with different details relating to the specific program. The essays focused on any research experience I’ve had and why I want to participate in an REU program.
I am looking forward to hearing from the schools about my REU application status. I’m interested in attending graduate school following undergrad at Lehigh, so gaining research experience would be incredibly beneficial. The main function of the REU programs is for the schools to pitch their graduate programs to undergrads and try to develop a relationship with the students. The schools want to promote their graduate schools and gain the interest of students interested in pursuing education past a bachelor’s degree. All in all, I am extremely excited for the prospect of participating in an REU this summer.